Thursday, August 4, 2016

Book Review: Chupacabra Road Trip (Nick Redfern, 2015)

Almost a year ago, I received another book from my good friend Nick Redfern for review. The book in question is called Chupacabra Road Trip: In Search of the Elusive Beast (Llewellyn Publications, 2015). This book is all about Nick’s decade-long pursuit of the elusive vampire beast known as El Chupacabra, the Goatsucker. The beast first came to the attention of the general public in 1995 on the island of Puerto Rico, when an unknown predator slaughtered hundreds of animals, leaving the corpses completely drained of blood with savage bite wounds in their necks. This created mass hysteria of epic proportions that still continues to some extent today, which has since spread to Mexico, Texas, Florida, Russia, and even Australia. This book is a complete chronicle of Nick’s travels, interviews with eyewitnesses, strange experiences, and his personal thoughts and theories regarding the beast. For that reason, this review will be somewhat longer than the others.

The first eleven chapters of the book focus on the Chupacabra in Puerto Rico and Nick’s hunt for the monster there. He begins with recounting his 2004 adventure on the island, with his close friend Jonathan Downes and the crew of the SyFy Channel’s show, Proof Positive. The full story of Nick and Jon’s 2004 adventures can be found in Nick’s book Memoirs of a Monster Hunter (New Page Books, 2007). The first nine chapters detail Nick’s week-long expedition in July 2004, where he does a lot of driving around in a Jeep, interviewing eyewitnesses with some very compelling stories, trekking through damp caves and steaming jungles, drinking frozen margaritas (a favorite of mine as well, I must admit), hunting vampires, having some good-natured fun at the expense of his friend Jon, and he even manages to make it out of a deadly situation alive. During this time, Nick brings up the theory that the Chupacabra could be some kind of giant vampire bat, which is a fascinating possibility. Chapters ten and eleven focus on Nick’s 2005 return trip to the island, where he comes into contact with the occult, theories about wild dogs and killer monkeys, a stuffed toy duck named Admiral Zorgrot, more animal mutilations, an eyewitness account of a “huge, feathery beast”, stories of Men in Black, and tales of relict dinosaurs on the island. Needless to say, Nick has had his hands full, and we’re not even halfway through the book yet!

Chapters twelve through fifteen (as well as chapter sixteen in Part 3) are all about the Chupacabra and its bloody exploits in the United States and Mexico. The creature in the U.S. and Mexico takes the form of a hairless, bluish-gray dog with elongated fangs and claws, with longer hind legs than are typical for canines. Otherwise, this creature shares the same modus operandi as the Puerto Rican monster: killing livestock and draining their blood in the dead of the night. In these chapters, Nick investigates the beasts found in the towns of Elmendorf and Cuero (both in Texas), theories of mangy coyotes, the frozen severed head of the Chupacabra, and DNA testing. In Mexico, he finds stories of living pterosaurs, the 2008 DeWitt County Chupacabra (and the viral video that followed), Chupacabra skulls, strange photos, and shapeshifting tricksters. Some truly weird stuff happens in Texas and Mexico, that’s for sure.

Chapters sixteen through twenty covers the various conspiracies surrounding the Chupacabra. Conspiracy theories are one of Nick’s specialties, and he covers all of them. These range from underground labs, genetic experimentation, mutant monkeys, HIV and AIDS research, vampires in underground tunnels, more monkeys, vampires in Moca, primate research (and some disturbing similarities to the 2002 horror film, 28 Days Later), mango margaritas, and crashed UFOs, to American military and government interference, the Chupacabra in Russia and Australia, surviving thylacines, secret defense labs, and mysterious emails. He covers all of these in great detail, leaving no stone unturned. High strangeness, indeed.

Chapters twenty-one through twenty-four are all about vampires of a more conventional nature. Here, Nick talks more about the Moca Vampire, animal sacrifices, vampire attacks in Wales, the vampiric Aswang and its involvement in quelling a rebel uprising in the 1950s in the Philippines, another quest to Puerto Rico in search of an isolated village believed to be inhabited entirely by the Undead, and the dark side of the Palo Mayombe religion. Chapters twenty-five through twenty-eight deal with the various hoaxes and cases of mistaken identity that Nick has come across during his search for the Goatsucker. This includes one man’s pathetic attempt to pass off a captured possum with mange as the vampire beast, a mangy raccoon named Chupie, out-of-place big black cats, Nick’s brief skirmish with the San Juan Police Department, a Puerto Rican shapeshifter that could be both Bigfoot and the Chupacabra at the same time, and a hoax involving a photograph of an airplane that had allegedly crash-landed in the El Yunque rainforest. Hang on, folks: we’re almost done.

Chapters twenty-nine and thirty contain Nick’s final thoughts and theories regarding the elusive Chupacabra. For this, Nick turns to bad movies and cases of truth being stranger than fiction. He touches briefly on two awful SyFy original movies, respectively titled Chupacabra: Dark Seas (2005) and Chupacabra vs. the Alamo (2013). He also talks about goatsucker activity in the USSR, as well as a confusing attack wrongfully attributed to a werewolf. But it is in the final chapter that Nick makes his most compelling arguments. Here, he turns to our mutual friend and fellow monster hunter, Ken Gerhard. Ken has been investigating the Texas Chupacabra for years, and has developed some intriguing theories of his own. In the now-classic horror movie Prophecy (1979), animals mutate into grotesque monsters as a result of exposure to extremely high levels of mercury in the Androscoggin River and begin to kill people. Nick believes that this could very well be what happened with the Texas Chupacabra, although Ken doesn’t rule out other pollutants. In addition, Nick also discusses blood-drinking animals and how they relate to the beast’s feeding habits. You’ll have to read the book’s conclusion to find out what the truth could be.

Overall, Chupacabra Road Trip is a fantastic book. It’s well-written, informative, witty, funny, and highly entertaining. This is one of the best books on the elusive vampire beast out there, and I wholeheartedly recommend it to all of my friends and this blog’s followers. I would like to take this opportunity to give my sincerest thanks to Nick, who I am honored to call my friend and who was kind enough to send me this book for reviewing free of charge. Thank You, Nick!! I’m deeply looking forward to reviewing more of your books soon!

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